You survived another Thanksgiving meal. With any luck you avoided the awkward sharing that is typical of many Thanksgiving dinners.
You know the one. It’s where everyone is forced to say one thing they are grateful for.
People make up random stuff. They say either health or family. And if someone already said that then you look like you’re a copycat and not really thankful for anything.
Shame on you.
Now you have another year before you need to go through that experience again.
Can we just get on with buying gifts?
The beauty of Thanksgiving is its simplicity.
Before you turn the page on this holiday, remember its significance. Thanksgiving is a day to do nothing more than say thanks. It serves as a reminder that we may not control our destinies, that other people (and circumstances) contributed to our success. In a way, it is antithetical to the American narrative of “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps”.
Giving thanks recognizes the inequality of opportunities. It forces us to see the uniqueness of our skills, upbringing, family, beliefs, and opportunities. We don’t know why we were given the chances we had, didn’t choose where we were born, our parents, educational opportunities or skills we received. We can be prideful about our level of responsibility for those things or we can be grateful for the chances we’ve received.
More than merely personal reward, giving thanks sends subtle messages that will impact your business.
1. Gratitude allows you to identify assets
When I was in my twenties, my wife and I moved to the Amazon basin in Peru to work with a development agency for four years. As part of the community selection process, we would travel with our coworkers to a community to assess its needs, willingness to work with the organization and goals for the next few years.
As a 6’ 3” white guy in the Amazon jungle, it was assumed I was the boss or the one holding the purse strings (I was neither). Community members immediately approached me describing to me their pain points in the community.
“We desperately need a soccer field.”
“We are so poor we can’t afford clean drinking water/ healthcare/ outhouses/ motorcars/ bibles (fill in anything imaginable here).”
The words changed but the tone was the same. It was the “I’m poor, have pity on me,” speech.
If our organization started to work with the community leaders, we started an assessment process to gauge the readiness and willingness of the community to make changes. During this process, one of the approaches used was “Asset Based Community Development.”
Identify Existing Assets
Instead of starting the conversation about what is missing, this approach starts the conversation from what the community already possesses.
The two approaches are in direct contrast to each other.
In most circumstances, the community members’ countenances changed as they identified their community assets, strengths, and resources. Community members recounted success stories and victories which allowed their community to survive in the first place. (The community would not exist if it weren’t already sustainable. A group of people always contributed to the success of a sustainable community.)
To identify the assets, the perspective needed to change from “what we don’t have” to “what we do have.”
You can pay someone to lead your company through this process in the States. Consultants will perform this work. Giving thanks will have a similar effect.
Stop to consider exactly what is leading to success. Identify past victories to uncover your hidden business assets.
Gratitude leads you to pinpoint key people, processes and other assets that are driving your company.
2. Gratitude will help you build a better culture
Running a company is difficult. Competing with larger companies for talent and customers takes its toll. Outgunned by larger companies with bigger budgets, the worst way to compete with these companies for talent is to compete on salary and benefits.
With historically low unemployment, many companies are watching employees walk in the front door only to see them exit out the back door within months. There needs to be a strategy to keep employees for longer.
“There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise.” Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay cosmetics
Gratitude, as a strategy, will build a sticker culture. Recognizing the accomplishments of others, talking about them, praising them and appreciating them is an intangible asset you can develop in your company which will lead to a healthier culture.
In this company, the leaders went as far as to celebrate outgoing employees as they exited the business to work for the competition. They spent time recognizing key accomplishments of the departing employee. Their gratitude led to an increase in retention and enabled them to rehire several of the former employees.
3. Gratitude will make you happier
The American dream, after all, is about the pursuit of happiness. You know the narrative, immigrants arrive penniless only to work nonstop for their entire lives so their kids can have the opportunity to make it here.
A new life.
A better life.
In all the striving for that life, gratitude is left out. How are you supposed to “make it” in life if you sit around listing off what you already possess?
You have to be hungry; want it more than the other person; “hustle.”
This, after all, is a competition.
You don’t have time for self-reflection when you’re striving for a dream.
You know the stress of managing a business. The endless phone calls and e-mails. Managing employees, vendors, clients and family. You can’t sit around feeling grateful while you need to “make it”. 80 hour work weeks don’t lend themselves to reflection.
Some days you may question why you are running your company.
Let me remind you, you want to be happy.
Not just you, everyone does. We all just want to be happy. Is that too much to ask?
We pursue happiness in every way possible. Business owners are motivated to achieve and use any metric to accomplish that goal. Net income, net worth, growth rates all in an attempt to be happier.
The problem is economists have already established that above a certain income level, increased income doesn’t increase happiness. If you are running a successful business, you are most likely above this threshold.
In direct contrast, gratitude does make you happier. The more gratitude, the more happiness.
Gratitude will deliver where income won’t.
It will ensure you don’t just become a miserable old rich person. It is proven to make you happier.
Gratitude, it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore
Don’t wait until next year to share your thanks. Embrace the awkward dinner table conversation. Instead of viewing gratitude as something to endure, see it for what it really is: a Jedi mind trick to identify assets, create a great culture and increase your personal happiness.
You can thank me later.